On Thursday night I saw The Hunger Games, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson.
To catch up with the rest of society, I read the source material fast and feverishly (just last weekend) in advance of seeing the film. I'm very glad I did.
1) Because the book was better.
2) Because I may not have understood everything without the details explained in the novel.
For the few people who haven't read it or seen the movie, The Hunger Games explores a dystopian future on the site of the former North America, where 13 districts of people are governed by a Big Bad Capitol. In punishment for the uprising that killed the prior society, they must sacrifice 24 of their young during annual "hunger games" where the kids fight to the death—with only one surviving.
The story focuses on poverty-stricken Katniss (Lawrence) who has become an expert hunter to feed her family after her dad's passing in the coal mines. When her younger sister is chosen to be a fighter ('tribute') in the games, she unselfishly volunteers to go in her place. Her partner in the games, from the same district, is Peeta (Hutcherson) who's family runs the district bakery.
They are soon whisked into a whirlwind of 'training' for the games with their drunken host Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) and reserved stylist Cinna (Lenny Kravitz). Among their entourage, it's decided that the angle the two will portray to win over sponsors (and the watching public) is that of star-crossed lovers. Peeta is happier about this than Katniss, to say the least.
After a clever entrance, which featured the two fighters literally on fire, they are positioned as underdogs who may actually have a chance at winning, after all. They're both clever, and Katniss has mad skills with a bow and arrow.
Everything leading up to the games is very faithful to the book and well executed. Once the battles begin, the story begins to drag and a few of the details (the only district to 'riot' after a tributes' death is the predominantly black one - really??) stray.
It's still entertaining, but the shaky camera bits I could have done without, and the pure heart of the novel I would've liked to see a lot more.
Nonetheless, the characters were well-cast and the dialog was close enough to be satisfying.